Thursday, July 30, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 4b)

Season 4a—Season 5a

Voyager has a reputation for being a bad series. While this half does give us a lot of “lesser” stories, it does manage to be entertaining across the board.

Episode 14 “Message in a Bottle”

In a comedic story with stunt casting, we get the Doctor playing hero once again. More than anything else, this episode sets up the MacGuffin for the rest of this season: contact with Starfleet and a garbled message that needs to be decoded. All in all, it is very entertaining.

Episodes 15, 16, 18, 19 “Hunters” “Prey” and “The Killing Game”

The antennae array from the last episode has some connection to a species of alien hunters. One wonders how the species managed to achieve space travel (and presumably the array) with such an anti-civilization culture. In the first of these four episodes, we are clued in to the idea that these Hirogens are Trek’s Predator. The second episode would have us believe that a Species 8472 has been left behind in our universe, and has somehow traveled the 10 year journey to where Voyager is, and has been hunted for some time.

Finally, the two-parter—even with all the set-up of the previous three episodes—presents an in medias res story of Hirogen using the Holodeck to torture the crew… all in an effort to create a Hirogen civilization culture. Hmmmm. It feels more like an elaborate excuse to have alien Nazis.

Episode 17 “Retrospect”

Seven of Nine is manipulated by the Doctor, who is deluding himself as being counselor material, to have false memories accusing an alien of abuse. It is heavy-handed, but a fairly good take on the “recovered memories” scandal from the 1980s and 90s.

Episode 20 “Vis a Vis”

A body-swapping story that feels perfunctory. The problem with episodic stories on TV is we know from the get go that everything will return to Status-quo by the end of things.

Episode 21 “Omega Directive”

This episode promises a secret, spy-like mission in the cold-open. It does not deliver. When ordered to destroy a “dangerous” molecule that could destroy warp travel, Janeway ignores Seven of Nine’s suggestion that Borg research might render it safe. More than that, it turns out that the “perfection” of the molecule makes it a sort of “Holy Grail” for Borg culture. Seven gets a glimpse of the molecule and has a Damascus Road experience, but that is swept away quickly in the cap scene.

Episode 22 “Unforgettable”

What we learn in this story is that Chakotay is easier to manipulate than your average guy. An alien whose biology causes other to forget interaction with them (see The Silence in Doctor Who for a much better take) shows up claiming that she knows the crew and wants asylum. Chakotay rightly suspects her claims that they were in love, but choses to believe her. When the tables are turned and the alien is made to forget the crew, Chakotay tries to convince her as she did him. She leaves without a moment’s hesitation.

Episode 23 “Living Witness”

In one of the more interesting uses of the sci-fi potential, the show tackles the limitations of history. The Doctor’s back-up file is activated 700 years in the future, in a museum, on a world that thinks it was the victim of an attack from Voyager. In this future, history has recorded Voyager as a harsh, totalitarian run ship that is willing to commit genocide to get what it needs to return home. The Doctor’s first hand testimony tells a very different story; that might cause renewed race wars.

Episode 24 “Demon”

An inhospitable planet has an intelligent, but non-conscious substance that attains consciousness when it comes in contact with Kim and Paris. It reproduces bodies based on their DNA (but not really, since it can exist on the planet where life as we know it can’t.) In this story, though, our crew has enough respect for life to allow the substance to replicate everyone, as a gift of life. TNG, in a similar situation (“Up the Long Ladder”), acted completely out of character and killed such “clones” in a pro-abortion message. Outside of that episode, Trek has always (unintentionally, but consistent with logic and ethics) been pro-life.

Episode 25 “One”

Seven of Nine must navigate through a nebula on a month-long journey while the rest of the crew is in suspended animation. Understandably, she begins to lose it psychologically.

Episode 26 “Hope and Fear”

That message from Star Fleet finally gets read and simply says, “Sorry, you’re on your own out there.” Actually, though, an alien tricks the crew into thinking that it reveals a quicker way home in an effort to turn them over to the Borg. They of course uncover the ruse and also manage to get a lot closer to home.

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